The tradition of an advent calendar started in Germany in the late 19th century. Most likely by parents who were fed up with their kids asking again and again how many days until Christmas…Can any parents out there relate?? I know I can! An advent calendar shows the 24 days in December until Christmas Eve. Each day is filled with a little present, to help the kids easily count down until Christmas.
Advent calendars come in all shapes and sizes these days, with many different types of presents. Some calendars offer chocolates, some have little trinkets or toys, and some offer experiences or activities to do together as a family.
After we wrote our last blog we had loads of requests for an extended list of language activities and as we love advent calendars, we thought it might be a fun idea to pull together a Bilingual Advent Calendar of our own! Even though there are so many amazing products out there specifically for bilingual kids (like our books, a present that the kids can open again and again – wink, wink), often the best gifts are experiences and simply time together.
Hopefully, some of these ideas and traditions appeal to you and help you in making it an even more memorable season for the whole family.
We present to you our bilingual experience-based Advent Calendar… Voilá!
1. Pick a new movie or an old classic to watch together.
2. Invite a special family member or friend who speaks the home language.
If that isn’t feasible, schedule a virtual visit over Skype! A beautiful tradition in Germany and Scandinavia is to celebrate the 4 Sundays before Christmas by inviting friends and family to gather around the Advent wreath. The wreath holds 4 candles. Each Sunday before Christmas, one new candle is lit, until all 4 candles are burning. Christmas is now less than a week away! Make it a tradition and organize an Advent Sunday brunch, tea, or barbecue. If you can’t gather in person, host a Skype session with family abroad.
Play Uno, Pictionary, Scrabble or other games in the target language. A game my kids still love is “Yes, No, Black, White”. In this game, you are not allowed to say any of the before-mentioned words, while the leader is asking rapid questions. It is a lot of fun and kids of all ages can play and have a blast. Here’s a quick example:
Leader: “What color are your teeth?” Player1: “yellow” (remember he is not allowed to say “white”) Leader: “What? Did you not brush your teeth today?” Player 1: “yes, of course, I did!” You guessed it… Player 1 is out XXX
4. Home language storytime.
Did you know that in Iceland it’s a tradition to give books for Christmas? It’s called “Jolabokaflod” (Yule – or Christmas – book flood). Families gather around a fire, drink hot chocolate (always a good addition, no matter if it is winter or summer where you live) and read books together. Start your own Jolabokaflod Tradition.
So go ahead, create a special reading nook and snuggle up for storytime. This is a great opportunity to introduce a popular book, character, or fairy tale from your home culture or a classic you always loved. Don’t forget the hot chocolate!!!
5. Have a bilingual Christmas dance party night!
Create a playlist of the catchiest hits in the home language, and make sure to mix in some Christmas songs as well. Make it extra fun by stringing up lights and dressing up for the dance floor! Christmas Songs in various languages
6. The 6th of December is Saint Nikolaus Day, a popular German holiday.
On this day, Saint Nikolaus comes to fill your boots with treats – if you’ve been good, of course! Kids love setting out their largest shoes (so more candy fits inside, obviously! 😉) on the night before. When they wake up on the 6th, they find a sweet surprise. If this is a new tradition for your family, perhaps read a book about Saint Nikolaus together before the big day arrives.
7. Spend an evening baking holiday treats together!
Practice your language together as you cook. You could even research traditional desserts in the target culture and try a new recipe! Here’s an easy cookie recipe we have used a few times: Easy Sugar Cookie Recipe. The cookies are done in no time and can be baked in advance. Smaller kids can easily decorate, so you can spend quality time focusing on your target language
8. Plan a special outing for the family or go outdoors.
Buy tickets to a sporting event, a kiddie concert, the ballet or the zoo. Discuss the trip in the target language as you prepare and while you are there. Or simply go outdoors and enjoy the rain (splash in the puddles), snow (make angels in the snow and build a snowman) or sun (You lucky bugger! Just don’t rub it in).
9. Build a Family Scrapbook or 2020 Calendar together.
Print out pictures from the year, and spend an evening reminiscing as you create a photo album documenting all the fun you’ve had.
10. Gift your child a one-on-one dinner date with mom or dad.
Let your child choose a favorite restaurant and spend time discussing the menu options in the target language. Bonus points if they choose a restaurant from the home culture!
11. Get creative and make some decorations
Get down and dirty, well kind of, here a great compilation of some easy craft ideas (there are a few not so easy ideas as well, for those crafty experts among you). Handmade Christmas decorations
12. Plan a scavenger hunt with clues in the target language.
Have a fun prize waiting for them as a reward for solving the clues.
13. Read a personalized bilingual book together!
Customize and order one of our popular children’s books. Make your child the hero of their own Underwater Adventure, Swan Lake performance, or Football/Soccer match!
14. Make an advent calendar for the grandparents with special drawings and notes from the kids.
Let your child describe what he or she is drawing in your target language and teach them how to spell the words properly for the notes.
15. Decorate the tree together!
Make it a festive event with music, cookies, and hot chocolate. Nothing beats the smile on your child’s face as each ornament comes out of the box.
16. Take an excursion to the mall to look at the Christmas decorations,
or attend a tree lighting event close to you. Plan ahead and discuss it in your home language.
17. Let’s go on a bilingual bear hunt…
Go for a walk and gather leaves and pine cones that you can use to decorate the house. If you live in the city, go to the market and choose natural decorations together.
18. Make Christmas cards for the whole family.
Okay, maybe not the whole family, in case you have a huge set of uncles and cousins:) Here are some instructions to get you started: Easy Handmade Christmas Cards
19. A fun tradition is to make an annual Christmas tree ornament together:
DIY Christmas Tree Ornaments. You’ll use lots of new words that you don’t often use in your target language like ribbon, glue, glitter. You might need to brush up on the vocabulary before you start the arts and crafts session, so be sure to check your dictionaries!
20. Camping under the Christmas tree. Why not?!
Have a picnic, and if you have a fireplace, make some S’mores. For the non-US readers, here’s a recipe for the ooey-gooey treat: S’mores Recipe. Spend some time admiring the Christmas tree, snuggle up in your sleeping bags, and sing some Christmas carols together.
21. Ask your child’s teacher if you can come to school in order to share your Christmas traditions.
Bring some cookies, tell them a story and dance to some Christmas carols. Ask your kids to help you plan!
22. Send a package to a less fortunate child.
Many charities will ask for special donations around Christmas time. Here in Hong Kong, we have an amazing organization called Box of Hope that sends gift boxes with necessities to children all over South East Asia. Have your kids help put the boxes together. They will probably have many questions, so don’t be afraid to address them openly. Giving to others is one of the most important learning opportunities we can give our children.
23. Have a colouring party!
You can invite friends over or keep it just among family. Gather up your crayons and coloured pencils, turn on some Christmas music, and start colouring together! You can find loads of colouring pages to print online, or head to the store to pick out a themed colouring book. This is a great opportunity to practice colour vocabulary! Here our own Underwater Colouring pages Our own TimTimTom Colouring page
24. It’s Christmas time! You have made it 🙂 Enjoy the time with family and friends and Happy Navi-dudes!!
If you choose to make us a part of your child’s Christmas this year, don’t delay! We offer FREE SHIPPING for Christmas orders, but we have some tight deadlines depending on where in the world you live. Check out all of the international shipping deadlines here: https://timtimtom.com/christmas-ordering-deadlines/
We’d love to hear your ideas for experience-based gifts for kids! Leave a comment or visit us over on Instagram to join the conversation.
Creative Ideas thanks to:
Leigh Ann Zerr, French and English teacher and mother of a budding French/English speaking little bilingual. You can follow her parenting journey on What Next Mom
Gabriela Schultze-Rhonhof Simmons (just to make it complicated), mom of trilingual teenagers that has experienced first hand the ups and downs of the multilingual parenting roller coaster ride and is still in the middle of it all. Co-Founder of TimTimTom Books. Contact her on gaby at timtimtom dot com
A bilingual and personalized story that will spark your kid’s imagination and language ability.
You can customize the name and look of the child and choose any combination of two out of ten available languages.
(Some available language combinations: English-Spanish, English-German, English-Russian, English-Chinese, English-Portuguese, English-Italian, English-Dutch, English-French, French-German, Russian-German, Spanish-German.)
The books are now also available in one language
TimTimTom – Reading in Two Languages is Double the Fun